Samford University has received a major federal grant designed to help ease a national shortage of nursing educators. The $183,661 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide loans for nurses in Samford's nursing graduate programs for the 2009-10 academic year.
The Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) addresses a critical shortage in qualified educators to teach in nursing schools, according to Jane S. Martin, associate dean of Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. Students who receive the loans for master's or doctoral degree programs can have up to 85 percent of the loan waived in exchange for service as a full-time nursing faculty member at a school of nursing.
Currently, 33 Samford nursing graduate students receive funds from the loan program. Students can continue to receive loans as long as they maintain good academic standing, Martin explained.
The loan program was approved by Congress in 2002, and Samford was one of the first 55 nursing schools from across the U.S. to receive funds. Samford's grant amount has increased each year as its nursing program has grown, Martin said. Samford has offered master's degree since 1995 and added a doctor of nursing practice degree in 2006. Samford's first class of D.N.P. students graduated in May.
"We are very concerned about the shortage of nursing faculty members and are pleased that Congress has recognized this critical need by providing these grants," Martin said. "At Samford, these funds help us to continue attracting top students to our graduate programs."
The shortage is felt even at schools such as Samford with strong academic programs, Martin added. "We constantly are looking for highly qualified faculty who can enhance our growing graduate nursing programs. These grants allow many of highly qualified students to pursue the graduate education they need in order to teach at accredited nursing schools."
According to a 2007 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there was an average of 2.2 faculty vacancies per school of nursing, and about 86 percent were positions requiring or preferring a doctoral degree. The nursing educator shortages impact a school's ability to admit qualified applicants, Martin said.
The loans also have positive impact for Samford because many Samford graduates return to teach and work in underserved areas, such as Alabama's historic Black Belt region, Martin noted. That fits with the university's commitment to community service and its Christian mission.
To date, Samford has received more than $611,000 in NFLP grants.